Everyone or No One
The pure form of the movement of rebellion is thus crowned with the heart-rending cry of Karamazov: if all are not saved, what good is the salvation of one only?
All successful cultures excel at something! Therefore, each culture represents an essential piece of our global jigsaw puzzle. But we ought to remember that the point of trying to put the puzzle together is to enhance all of our lives.
Thus, our intellectual satisfaction with abstract connections should reflect and foretell our bodily pleasure. Until we can retool ourselves, the knee-jerk joys of pure competitive winning should remain highly suspect. For the time being, let's just use our competitive habits as an ongoing source of strength, reflex, insight, stamina, health and durability. Beyond that, applying them to our jigsaw challenge would probably just be detrimental, resulting in dulled or broken edges, poor fits, and missed opportunities.
We can define culture as successful adaptation to a stable ecological niche. The difference for us “moderns” is that, whereas this stability used to be mandatorily enforced and defined by technological constraints, it must now be created voluntarily, informed by knowledge of our biological patterns and ecological limitations, and our freedom to choose alternative strategies accordingly.
Thus, the historically recent disappearance of so many previous technological limitations as a result of our tremendous advances in communications, transportation, mass production, argriculture, medical science, etc.] should not be confused with the elimination of biogeographical restrictions. Technology applied beyond its appropriate ecological context – a mistake often difficult to discern until after the fact, and which has grown ever more frequent in recent decades – eventually guarantees an increase in [tip:entropy=Here referring to more or less steady social and cultural decline stemming mainly from unsustainable population/resource ratios]. The human tendency to make this kind of mistake is nothing new.
As colonialization has become an increasingly global affair, however, the opportunity to do so – and on an ever-larger scale – has grown right along with it. Every time we try to superimpose mind-culture systems on body-culture environments, the result is often disastrous. This happens all the time. Ask any honest USAID veteran.
Unfortunately, overshadowing the work of a relatively few and underfinanced, goodhearted international aid volunteers, there never seems to be a lack of newly- generated global carpetbaggers ready, willing and able to self-servingly exploit the short-term benefits of such misplaced technological [tip:applications.=If organizations like Doctors Without Borders stand as the exception to this state of affairs, we still desperately need for them to cease being the exception, and begin to be the rule.]
What unites humanity? A common physicality, emotionality, and general way of embodying language; love, freedom and the struggle to reconcile the two.
What divides us? The old habits of separation. Separate geography, mythology, language. Once ecological mastery and advances in outer technology have helped us to overcome problems stemming from the first two, only the divisions among us created by language [tip:remain.= True believers in "original sin" and/or "genetic predisposition" of course, find such behaviorally-neutral notions bland, naïve, and just plain wrong.] All those who think real social change could never be reduced to something so apparently simplistic as a language problem, far from being dismissed out of hand, are gladly referred to material dealing more specifically with the nature/nurture debate, e.g. Our traditional embodied language, conditioned by the Old-World restrictions of specific ecological niches normally assumed to be separate, begins to work against us as soon as technology blows apart those Old-World contexts. Conflicting introjects, operating semiotically, somatically, and to a large extent subliminally, continue to fuel violent political confrontations wherever our newfangled ameliorations can't reach. Ireland and the Middle East come to mind. But these conflicts are just the tip of the iceberg. Classes, genders, communities, and families all sport the same situational patchwork, with analogous flashpoints, as modern nations.
The power of language is such that it can often keep perpetuating the old divisive habits born of separate geographies and mythologies long after our outer biological stake in such separations has disappeared. Without new insights/outsights into the biology of culture at work in us, social and economic stress will mostly continue to result not in innovation, but in a tightening up of the same old behavioral patterns, and our bodies will never sophisticate.
The main trouble dealing with language is that, before you can come to understand its potentially divisive and destructive impact at some point in history or some specific level of context, you first must have learned that a history or context beyond your own could even exist at all! A complex bit of learning often all too highly dependent on language!
The terms "vicious cycle" or "double-edged sword" come to mind. But whatever term you use, the outcome is the same. Language, up to a point the instrument of our awakening, beyond that point also carries with it, under certain conditions, the seeds of our demise.
What most lends to an awareness of this double face of language? Not any specific expansion or contraction of internal or external ecological space, but rather, having experienced a sufficent number of such shifts in language effects, sufficiently clear of the confusion of other variables, to render us aware of the existence of the pattern.
If enough of these shifts of context can make us aware of the patterned complexity of language, what I have referred to elsewhere as a “bioenergetic approach” can help us, each, on our own personal and inevitably idiosyncratic level, become aware of those specific semiotic and affective mechanisms that tend to subliminally drive the behavior of language-empowered people, e.g.
Against this backdrop, it makes sense that any further application of any epiphany gleaned from the exorcism of the "golem" that morning must extend beyond issues of personal self-awareness to question whether or not, at that particular moment – from a more strictly social point of view – I would've been better off remaining “depressed." Or, if not, then dealt with it more conventionally, like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, or the modern corporate crowd.
For, as has already been strongly suggested in our discussions about the power and influence of the group over each of our behaviors, learning effective mind-body techniques to draw out our respective "golems,” even at such arguably key moments, is often the lesser challenge.
If everyone else on your block is happily (unhappily?) humming along with their sublimated golems, the question of when, where and how you do that freeing “bioenergetic” becomes more than just a psychological, or physical one. It becomes a social issue as well. In self-contained kingdoms of the blind, the one-eyed woman or man might rule, but the woman or man who attempts, successfully, to open both eyes is often ostracized, at best.
Dramatic changes in awareness and their potentially beneficial effects on our behavior, however can only take hold culturally after enough people have done such exercises frequently enough to be able to integrate their breakthroughs on a conscious cultural level. For this to happen means, that, in spite of what are often very real and forbidding social obstacles to working toward such awareness, someone on your block eventually has to find the courage to chuck the "timing is everything" approach to life, find the wherewithal to push ahead against their natural resistance to such exercise-based, emotionally-focused techniques and, hopefully, come to sufficiently convince others of their [tip:worth.=Most likely only after they, too, have experienced something similar for themselves.]
In my view, it should be obvious by now, it is become increasingly advisable for all of us to discover and develop such "alternative" outlets for ourselves. Because, if not "bioenergetically" exorcised, the negative [tip:feelings=subliminal or otherwise] attached to that golem are eventually going to have to go somewhere – and better out into the air or into the ground than back into me or the wife, assistant, unwitting friend, star, god, or enemy, etc.
Under economic and ecological stress, our standard cathartic outlets – novels, films, plays, sports –have become more and more ineffectual at preserving even our old, relatively flawed level of civilized behavior, as clearly evidenced by the number, frequency, and intensity of the personal, social, and cultural implosions now going on all around us. (Link to distinction between "religious transference" and spiritual grounding here.)
From the point of view of our inhabiting a culture of words, we can think of this sort of circumspect yet nonetheless courageous bioenergetic approach metaphorically, as producing an effect somewhat the opposite of a chain letter.
While realizing we must have courage if we are going to move forward, don't we also have to use good sense in applying our new ideas? Of course. Are the decisions we make about what to do with our feelings still personal and context-specific? Absolutely.
But a growing awareness of previously more subliminal psychophysiological and socially ritualized habits governing our behavior would give us an extra set of tools to connect with our truest and deepest, personally- and mutually-beneficial feelings. Learning how to apply these tools we needed could subsequently help us to better understand, expand and enhance the new behavioral options that awareness represents, promoting tendencies toward innovation rather than regression when under stress.
So, again, how do we language-educated-and-immersed peoples expand our awareness beyond our own or any other culture's semiotic programming, and get it to the point where a sense of universality becomes more than just a fleeting sensation or convenient abstraction?
[tip:Body work=Which, let's reiterate, should not be considered an end in itself, but rather – just like all good psychological work – as providing an enhanced path to the healthful integration of previously unconscious and thus unintegrated data], balanced by the mind's sense of history (link to book 2 intro) and the heart's sense of responsiblity, can open a window up on all we have repressed, or had repressed in us by others, without destroying our urge to become even more civilized.
Only by being temporarily suspended from the social and psychological binds of language can we come to learn how to really see how it works in a different way, experientially counteracting our normative, educated sense of it’s "two-dimensionality" (link to Saussure’s "signifier and signified"), and then use that enhanced sense of words, and how they operate both for us and upon us, to plot a different course for ourselves, one at once both more deeply personal and more broadly contextual.
I've become increasingly convinced this approach can produce new patterns of behavior much better at eluding entropy through their heartedness, and illusion through their mindfulness. In short, we must learn to use our words better, at the behest of the most important ecological nexus of all: that point at which our minds and bodies meet in the service of both ourselves and humanity.
Strangely enough, often the easiest way to start this process is to just make a noise. Most of us do this, anyway, without even thinking about it – coughing, grunting and so forth – not realizing we are engaging in some relatively "language-free bioenergetic."
In general, we are all strongly conditioned not to make anything out of these errant vocalizations, writing them off for the most part as meaningless mannerisms or expressions of minor physical or emotional discomfort. Within the context given above, however, attaching a little more value to our habit of uttering such "noises" wouldn't hurt us a [tip:bit=Many mind-body therapists, of course, actively employ the significance of sounds like this in their work].
Discovering the connections between what we already unconsciously do, and the rest of what we probably must do, on a more conscious level, to broaden and deepen our awareness of the biology of culture, is a great way to begin moving the past and [tip:present=within and without us] into a better future.
Only then we can come to see, without having to sacrifice our clarity (through drugs) or our progressive conviction (through the endless, exhausting battles between sectionalism and political correctness) that nearly all religions and ideologies, starting with our own, were valid expressions of the ecological and technological situations of their [tip:times,=even though in key ways they may have come to outlive their usefulness] and that most of them sought to create the best balance then possible for their particular people, guided by memories of pleasure and pain acknowledged and unacknowledged, whether acquired in person or inherited from previous generations.
The same goes for partly or wholly subliminal attitudes toward differences in body type (race and shape), and language (root and accent). But what our current ecological reach means is that, finally, at a global level of context, increasing numbers of us have the ability to simultaneously see the difference and hear the similarity, to use the difference to understand the similarity, and vice versa.
So. Again. What could ultimately justify such a socially radical stance? Is there something outside the system? Something greater than ourselves, a consciousness greater than our own that created us and that still exists? In the end, we are still confronted with same questions, and our answer to them affects everything else we do. (link to other passage[s] on spirituality here, or maybe just a tooltip).
Large numbers of us are still young and strong, tough and able. And if many others of us are no longer young, then our children or students, nieces and nephews are. Isn't all this exuberance of youth and wisdom of experience enough to get us through? Just as it has always been? Why should we be asking ourselves to think more? Feel more?
Or why not just, as many of us always have, let God, whatever or wherever he/she/it/ is, take care of those things. And anyway. . . well, most of us don't want to "make trouble."
But look around. Aren't we already in trouble? Unprecedented trouble. How much trouble will it take before we begin to realize that something extra, something more than our traditions have handed us, is called for – is in fact necessary?
To the extent we are bioenergetically able to subtract our own projections from any sense we might have of a consciousness or spirit greater than our own, we are able to see that, contrary to orthodox opinion, the existence of God, far from rendering a unified and accurate social science impossible, is the only solid basis upon which such a science could rest. (Probably could use a link to a fuller exposition here. Perhaps something that includes personal experience). For it is out of an accurate apprehension of God that we come to know what we have still have to improve upon and how to generally go about doing it.
The best rituals are often also the worst rituals, in the sense of their being the most difficult for us to gain a perspective on, and change or eliminate once they've become outmoded. Why is this? Because they've been the most effective at simulating the joys and humiliations of the existential moment while at the same time ensnaring us to conform our behavior to a strict set of social practices, roles, and rules. For the well-adapted, of course, this can feel like a big advantage, like having had one's cake and eaten it, too.
Such ritually-inspired feeling can take myriad forms. Like what we experience, personally and collectively at that last-minute end-zone pass. Or, even, more "counter-culturally", during that groupie-spawned crystal [tip:vision.=In some ways psychedelia wasn't so "counter-cultural" after all, now was it?] How can stuff that's so exciting and chummy, or warm and fuzzy, come across as anything less than total reality?
As an intrinsic part of the biology of culture, these rituals, however apparently formal or informal, need have no morality. They can be used and experienced, variously, and often in complex ways, to protect, comfort, control, strengthen, damage, and/or enslave. They might, singly or together, resonate with the crudest urges of a stupified body or the most subtle and pleasureable rhythms of language.
When operating more or less as social-psychological monopolies in what are, for all practical purposes, closed ecologies (link to Speer quote), the rituals and their objective correlatives, their metonymic referents (tooltip: the King's scepter, a family coat of arms, the flag, Ronald McDonald), by opening up just a little bit of extra – and not just metaphorical (Pierce) – space in the consciousness of their audience, can double for "God" in all sorts of perfectly effective ways.
This practice applies to both the very smallest and very the largest "tribes." You only have to pick your era and social context, scope and style: [tip:shaman or CNN.=Is the similarity in the sound of the word and the acronym here purely accidental?]
Do we usually intend our ritualizations to be destructive? Of course not. We usually intend to be as beneficial as possible. But, as they become increasingly outmoded, our traditional rhythm- and language-based rituals falter and fail much more quickly without the added application of newer, far more bodily-intensive and -invasive technologies (link to "super-soldier stuff, etc.) In this context, even a shrewd or cagey exploiter of people's subliminal behavior, though no innocent, is not much of a long-term thinker, either.
How could the real God, (if there actually were one), permit all this stuff to go on? Probably because one of the characteristics of freedom must be that it has to allow itself to be impersonated.
Historically, as radical shifts in ecological context occurred, the clash of these powerful rituals and their associated ideologies was responsible for most of the great religious wars. This doesn't have to mean, however, that there is no benevolent God, or nothing true or loving "outside the system." Rather, it suggests, something long-since known: the extent to which we humans tend to see "but through a glass darkly.
The fallacy of brute force: that once the main differences between cultural entities perceived as separate by their members or adherents have been resolved politically and/or technologically, and when, as a result, most everyone can see the way to a reasonable compromise, the use of brute force to settle those differences should disappear. It's this fallacy, when applied to seemingly intractable situations in places like Northern Ireland, the Middle East and Bosnia, that keeps us all at least a little bogged down in the old notions of innate human evil.
But, again, these big problem areas are merely magnifications of the sort of thing that still troubles us everywhere in the world, at every level of context. Regardless of one's political or technological sophistication.
So long as the universal potential for violence remains institutionalized within our bodies (tooltip: and in our language), and until we learn how to identify and defuse that potential – and the cues which activate it – in ourselves and each other, brute force will remain a likely and attractive option, even when otherwise unnecessary, in times of stress, for the advantaged and disadvantaged alike.
On one hand, violence can be a means of expressing even the slightest fear or displeasure, jealously, pique, or sense of inadequacy on the part of those people who otherwise hold positions of power or advantage in the system. Hence, "arrogance." On the other hand, people who feel chronically put upon by those bigger and stronger than they are will continue to habitually reach the point where they figure they have nothing to lose by resorting to physical or psychological aggression.
Our general ignorance concerning the psychological realities of brute force, which also helps foster the way we tend to rationalize, after the fact, our destructive physical or psychological acts of arrogance or desperation, is exposed every time a king or commoner discovers he feels just as good hitting the ball with a racquet or bat as he would hitting a peon, assassinating a head-of-state, or swatting a fly.
But the fact that even this almost universally-experienced feeling, well-known to all those who participate in spectator sports, is almost never transferred in any serious way to enhance our psychological awareness vis-à-vis the world stage of war and politics just demonstrates how deeply ingrained the ignorance about the roots of these destructive habits really is.
Moreover, the potential value of sport as a way of peacefully making us aware of all this is too often compromised when its recreational side becomes overshadowed by ramped-up economic and "ego" competition, both on and off the field, at which point the game becomes merely another example of the same fallacy, if somewhat removed in terms of its most dire consequences. All of this, of course, usually remains well-camouflaged or just plain ignored, because sporting events, like wars, usually provide everyone concerned with plenty of cathartic moments. (Link to more about catharsis here?)
In determining the extent of the therapeutic dimension of sport, the overall effect of context is everything. If the relative artificiality of a game is geared to be conducive to perspective, reflection, equity, cooperation, [tip:etc.=in some ways analogous to that revelatory experience in the shrink's office, or occasionally, even in yoga class or the theater], the fallacy of brute force is usually easily and quickly exposed to all, to everyone's [tip:benefit.=Witness: the sometimes strange mishmash of fallacy and revelation in the background chatter of sports commentators.]
But now we still often wed that same artificiality to technologically-heightened distortions of human prowess and imagination. Think of our steroid-driven competitions and increasingly violent video games, with their ever intensifying, adrenalin-pumping special [tip:effects.=This is not to argue, however, that such gaming necessarily promotes violent behavior in real life. In fact, all else being equal, research shows it tends to provide a safe outlet for potentially violent emotions.], e.g. (Link to research)
As sheer entertainment, unembellished physical reality itself pales by comparison with such captivated video environents and gets thrown even farther off-balance trying to compete. But in some cases, the real-life effects of these applications are neither abstract nor all that surprising. Just think about what your young son is probably doing to his thumb while intensely trying to "beat" that little game on his pocket [tip"console."=:Ripe for some language analysis: how often do modern parents use "consoles" to "console" their children?]
It only takes one brief look at our current video media to see the extent to which all sorts of technologically-based [tip:artificiality=HD, 3-D, etc.], often accompanied by shocking and/or violent imagery, is already taking up much of the airwaves. Just check out the most recent crop of American gladiators and monster-car races.
Is wrestling taking over politics? Is politics becoming more like wrestling? Or is their similarity just becoming more obvious to us?
Ecological compression multiplied by technology-[tip:run-amok=as opposed to being applied cooperatively, benevolently, and equitably] begins to distort even our sense of history.
Why can't we do science without doing change? Because new knowledge is always broadening and deepening our context, changing our perspectives and thus our interpretations. Only whatever lies beyond language, nature, and technology could possibly remain constant.
Some still think that "whatever" is just nothing whatsoever, beyond maybe something like a "big bang," and that those who still believe otherwise are simply ignorant, foolish, or misguided. If you are one of these self-proclaimed atheistic or agnostic folks, then your only problem is making sure you don't wind up losers in the entropy sweepstakes.
For the rest of us, it is only our abiding, evolving sense – as distinct from any changeless or absolute knowledge – of a Creator that can accurately guide our science through the wrenching changes in politics, economics, and ecology that, for better or worse, that are now regularly affecting almost all of us. (Again, somewhere in here a link or links to personal, meditative experience is needed.)
Most people wind up judging the character and limits of other people's human nature – and by extension their capacity for change – through a subliminal sense of their own. We all tend to think we can compartmentalize freely and easily between us and them, but this is just a fond if fragile illusion.
We really can't do that kind of separation very well, no matter how well-armored, or otherwise tough and independent we think we are. In one way or another, every great work of literature lays bare this illusion to us. (Link to a few examples here? Salinger, Fitzgerald, etc.) This is why, in stressed-out times like ours, when we all tend to cling to our projections like drowning people to liferafts, we tend to shun great literature, if we can't find some way to misinterpret it.
Lee Strauss copyright @ 2015